Peace, Love and an Old Theater

Everyone agrees on this much: The Huntridge Theater should be open.

“It should be a place the community can go to and enjoy. Companies could rent it out for different things. You could get married there,” says Cima Mizrachi, whose family owns the 68-year-old historical landmark and the property it sits on. “Schools that don’t have a good theater on their campus could use the Huntridge,” says Dan Roberts, a member of the newly created Huntridge Foundation. “I could see banquets happening in there.”

Beyond that, however, consensus begins to break down. The Mizrachis are discomfited by what they perceive as an outside attempt to run their business, while a community movement weaned on Huntridge shows is anxious to see a historical building restored sooner than later.

But there’s hope. The Huntridge Foundation, a grassroots group comprised of Huntridge-area residents and friends of the venue from its rebellious punk-rock phase, wants to raise funds to help make the dilapidated theater look good again—and they want to do it in cooperation with the Mizrachis, not working against them. “We’re here to be positive and proactive. We’re not here to dictate other people’s business,” says Roberts, adding that the foundation would like to help keep the troubled Huntridge Circle Park from sliding into decay, as well.

And Cima Mizrachi, whom the family has designated as the Huntridge’s new caretaker, wants to listen.

“I think, at the end of the day, we share the same sentiment. I want to see it cleaned up, too,” she says.

But both sides want to keep this a neighborhood matter. Asked if anyone has officially reached out to Tony Hsieh and his Downtown Project, or plans to do so, both Roberts and Mizrachi say no.

“I went to Bishop Gorman High School, and the Huntridge was my neighborhood for a while,” Roberts says. “Not to take anything away from what Tony’s doing, but when I look at the Huntridge, I’m going to see something different from what Tony sees.”

The next few steps are vital. Cima Mizrachi would like to discuss possible alternative uses of the building; she has a fine idea for a bistro where the smoker’s patio used to be, and her face positively lights up at the idea of restoring the theater’s Streamline Moderne sign. And Roberts wants to begin fundraising efforts to restore the façade. (He knows scores of musicians willing to play benefits: “I could book a show every Friday night for the next year!”)

But it all begins with the two sides sitting down. As it happens, there’s a central location where they can meet—a historic theater at the corner of Maryland and Charleston, which will be glad of the attention.